Pressed during a forum to cite city inefficiencies, Lonnie Croft takes a pass

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COLLEGE PLACE — Accusations of waste produced heat, but little light, during a forum for College Place City Council candidates Wednesday.

Challenged to produce specific examples of inefficiencies in the city government, mayoral candidate Lonnie Croft refused to do so, instead hinting that he had a “game plan” he would not reveal.

The exchange came near the end of the forum when Council candidate Marge Nyhagen asked Croft to specifically cite where there was any waste and inefficiency in the city. She said his accusations had “wounded” her and other Council members who feel they have been diligent in making sure the city’s money is carefully managed.

“I’m part of that accusation that you make,” she told Croft. “How do you expect to go about healing those wounds you have caused among us?”

Croft replied that he was sorry, “but calling the kettle black is calling the kettle black. Just drive around and look and see what’s happening.”

“Each department needs to be looked at thoroughly,” he continued. “The Public Works Department needs to be looked at thoroughly. The Police Department needs to be looked at thoroughly. The Fire Department needs to be looked at thoroughly. There will be inefficiencies found ... I don’t know how to cure your wounds, Marge.”

But Nyhagen persisted.

“You say there will be inefficiencies found,” she said. “You are running for the mayor of the city of College Place ... Why haven’t you gone and why can’t you tell us what those inefficiencies are ...?”

Croft replied, “Well, those are things that — you don’t give away your game plan.

“They want to know? ... Well, I have a website, you can go and ask me a personal question ....”

At which point Croft’s opponent, Rick Newby interjected, “I’m going to hand out lottery tickets, too.”

At that point, moderator Loren Dickinson ended the exchange and moved the discussion on to other questions from the audience.

During the 90-plus minute forum at John Sager Middle School, Croft and Newby spoke about their positions and fielded questions on city finances, priorities and development plans.

Newby is running for his second term as mayor on the City Council while this is Croft’s first run for a city elected position.

Two other council candidates also presented statements on their candidacies — Nyhagen, who is running unopposed for the Position 3 seat and Julie Scott, who is campaigning for the Position 1 seat.

Newby stressed his experience and knowledge of government processes, cited gains the city has made in economic development and listed public works projects that have helped the city meet state and federal mandates and create a water system independent on outside supplies.

Croft reiterated his goals of creating a “more open and receptive” city government, reducing the city’s debt and streamlining city processes to make them more friendly to developers and those who want to site businesses in the city.

Questions from the audience covered the range from street repairs to fireworks to relations with neighboring cities, such as Walla Walla. Both Croft and Newby agreed that it is important to remain on cordial terms with other governments.

“It’s just part of doing the job,” Newby said.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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